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How to Get Subscribers on YouTube (Even Though Subscribers Don’t Matter)

When I quit my big media job in April of 2020, I needed to build a new channel and I needed to build it as fast as possible. I'd built my previous, company-owned channel to 170K subscribers in 2 years. I ended up building the new indie one to over 200K in 9 months. Here's what I learned (most recently on Clubhouse):

  • Best way to get subscribers is to ask for them.
  • Never be ashamed to ask and never let anyone shame you for asking.
  • Ask for subscribers near the beginning of the video, right after you’ve delivered value. ~20 seconds in, right after the hook.
  • Asking for subscribers is not about converting first-time viewers, it’s about reminding viewers who have watched and enjoyed several of your videos to subscribe.
  • People who enjoy your videos can often be so engrossed in watching they don’t even think about subscribing, so it really is a helpful reminder.
  • One of the best converting CTA for subscribers is Dream’s: “YouTube shows me X% of you watching haven’t subscribed yet. Please hit that button and bell so we can build the biggest/best community together. It’s free and you can always change your mind later.” (I use a version of this, but much shorter, but only one or two videos a week because it’s… a lot.)
  • Smooth segues into CTAs after showing value also work. “This is how you do XYZ and make sure you hit that subscribe button and bell for more videos just like this.”
  • Teasing big upcoming videos also works. “And I’ll have the full review next week, so make sure you hit that subscribe button and bell so you don’t miss it.”
  • If you’re trend-jacking or know a particular video will over-perform, use the most impactful CTA because it will drive the most conversions from the best performing videos.
  • Graphical CTAs with no verbal component don’t convert well at all.
  • Jimmy does his CTA at the end because he’s worried if someone pauses to subscribe they’ll get distracted by another video in Suggested, maybe even stop watching, but his AVPV is ridiculous so the same rules don’t apply.
  • Find your videos that have the highest subscriber conversion numbers and make them into a short playlist that you can funnel new viewers into to increase conversion.
  • Also! Study those videos to see what worked and repeat it!
  • Don’t stack or split CTAs. “Like, Subscribe, fill out this form, jump up and down.” Don’t give people too many jobs all at once. They will not like you. If you want subs, ask for subs, and only subs, and don’t ask for anything else for 5+ minutes. (If something else is more important to you, do that instead, or alternate in different videos.) People will do one thing for you. People will feel confused or annoyed for multiple things and just do nothing.
  • Subscribers is a vanity metric. Getting someone to watch 3 of your videos will get you into their recommended, which is as good as a sub and better for growth. But vanity metrics can still be important. They can build your brand, your rep, your esteem, get you play buttons, partner programs, partner managers, collab opportunities, etc. So if you want them, that’s fine! That’s great! Just make a strategy and implement it. Test, iterate, improve, repeat!